02/02/2006 12:00AM

Rivals return in King Cotton after finishing neck apart

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The rematch is on.

Rodeo's Castle and Beau's Town, who finished a neck apart in the Kenner Breeders' Cup at the Fair Grounds meet Jan. 14, head a field of 11 on Saturday in the $50,000 King Cotton at Oaklawn Park.

Others in the six-furlong King Cotton include Top Commander, winner of last year's Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint at Oaklawn; Level Playingfield, a multiple stakes winner for trainer Bob Holthus; and Joe Six Pack, who has been working lights out for his first start since August.

registered the biggest win of his career last out, when he broke from his usual front-running ways and rallied for a neck win in the Kenner, a six-furlong race worth $274,000.

"He had the outside post, and he showed that he had the versatility of coming from off of it," said Beverly Fowler, who trains Rodeo's Castle. "I didn't want him going to the front. I felt like that was too much. But to be able to sit back and relax a little bit and make that late run, I thought he was quite capable of doing that. It worked well for him."

Rodeo's Castle draws a post that could lend itself to another stalking trip. He will break from gate 7 under John Jacinto.

returned from a 14-month layoff in the Kenner and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. He is 5 for 6 at Oaklawn during his career, including the 2003 runnings of the King Cotton and Count Fleet.

Calvin Borel has the mount on Beau's Town for trainer Cole Norman, who has three other starters in the King Cotton: Joe Six Pack, fourth last out in the $56,000 Folklore at Louisiana Downs; That Tat, a stakes winner last year at Oaklawn; and Top Commander, who in his final prep drilled a focused five furlongs in 59.80 seconds, despite having a loose horse briefly run toward him in the stretch as he worked Jan. 28.

figures to be threatening the field late under John McKee.

"He's had a couple of good works here," said Holthus. "He had a good year last year. He was second in the Churchill Downs Handicap, then he won the Marfa at Turfway."

Others in the field include stakes winners Dreamsandvisions, Two Down Automatic, and Stolen Time.